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Girls' Ice Hockey: Belmont, Watertown Highs Join to Skate As Combined Team

For the next two season, traditional rivals will compete under one banner.

Belmont High School's Kendel Brown with her new team, the Watertown/Belmont Maraiders.
Belmont High School's Kendel Brown with her new team, the Watertown/Belmont Maraiders.
The Maraiders? 

That's the name – a mash up of "Raiders" and "Marauders" – hockey players from Belmont and Watertown high schools will take with them as they step on the ice for the next two seasons after the schools reached an arrangement earlier this fall in which the players will compete as a cooperative team. 

"We're looking forward to that relationship. Both the Belmont and Watertown programs are struggling for the next couple of years so we decided to band together to keep both of our programs alive," said Watertown High School Athletic Director Michael Lahiff during an interview with Belmont Patch at the Thanksgiving Day Football Game in Watertown. 

The reason for the combined teams was simple arithmetic: there was not the number of girls coming out of ice hockey in the next two year at either school to field a team.

"We had about 10 players from each town come out this year and that's not enough for a team," said Steve Russo, Watertown's long-time head coach at the team's first scrimmage Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 4, against Wellesley at Watertown's John A. Ryan Skating Arena. 

Where there was a sufficient number of players last year in Belmont, this season several girls decided to end their careers, moved to private schools or dedicated themselves to club hockey. 

"We determined that there was a need and since [Davis and I] work closely we decided to come together to solve it," said Lahiff.

"It became clear in the spring that we would not have enough students coming out for girls' (ice) hockey. That's when we reached out to Watertown," said Jim Davis, Belmont High School's Athletic Director, noting that the team finished the year with only 11 active players. 

Watertown traditionally has a small number of female students come out for ice hockey. The Watertown High program has been a part of a cooperative team with Melrose for the past six season until this year when Melrose was able to raise its numbers to establish an independent team.

Even with approximately 20 skaters, the new squad received a waiver from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to allow eighth graders  to join the team as the team did not have a High School goaltender. That position has been taken by Watertown Middle School's Jenna Kennedy.

It was also decided that Watertown would be the "host" school which resulted in Russo being named the head coach and the Ryan Rink the location for "home" games.

And while Russo reached out to Belmont High's only head coach, Mark Haley, and his assistants, time constraints and rink times forced the Belmont coaches to decline the offer to help coach the new team.

"Haley is one of the reasons we now have girls hockey. He's been a pioneer and one of the great coaches in the game," said Russo.

Belmont High's program, which was begun by Haley, was one of the first three programs that began skating as a team in the late-1980s before the sport was sanctioned by the MIAA. Haley won an early state championships about a quarter century ago.

Recently, both programs have been successful; Watertown made the Division 1 tournament in the past two years with 12 and 13 win seasons while Belmont High reached the state semifinals in 2012 winning 16 games that year.

And the prospects for this coming season? 

"We have some very good players but they haven't played together so it will take time. And while I have a goalie who is a tough cookie, she's an eighth grader. I do think we will get better as the season goes on," said Russo, noting he though his team last year would only win five games before nearly tripling that number.

There will some familiar faces on the ice for the Maraiders: Suzanne NooneSerena NallyMarsia Puma and Casey Shea were seen on the Ryan ice as was defensive stallward Kendel Brown all from last year's Marauder team.
K. Bonnin December 24, 2013 at 09:40 AM
Thanks to both schools for finding a solution that keeps these girls on ice. Good news ahead, Belmont Youth Hockey is on target to send up 34 girls for 2016 increasing to 44 in 2017 (Gr. 8-12) and happy to have the WHS girls join us on Belmont ice then too.

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